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Sharp Comments On Yale Class Day (PBS Civil War's Ken Burns)

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RamboLiberal Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-24-04 11:20 PM
Original message
Sharp Comments On Yale Class Day (PBS Civil War's Ken Burns)
Edited on Mon May-24-04 11:24 PM by rmpalmer

Ken Burns had sober advice for the class of 2004, students who came of age after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and now leave Yale as war rages in Iraq.

"Insist that we fight the right wars," he said. "Steel yourselves. Your generation will have to repair this damage. And it will not be easy."


Burns compared the social divisions of the Civil War era with the cultural divisions of today. Only now, the threat is fundamentalism, he said.

"The lesson for us, today, is tolerance," he said.

Some parents objected to Burns' message and thought he went too far in comparing the upheaval of the Civil War with today's political climate, shaded by red states and blue states. Yet others lined up to thank him afterward, from a grandmother who said she would have paid to hear him speak to a graduating senior who asked him to autograph her Class Day Exercises pamphlet.

And some additional quotes in Newsday.

Burns quoted famed jurist Learned Hand as saying, "Liberty is never being too sure you're right."

"Somehow recently, though, we have replaced our usual and healthy doubt with an arrogance and belligerence that resembles more the ancient and now fallen empires of our history books than a modern compassionate democracy," Burns said, to applause from the 1,300 graduates and their families and friends.

He criticized what he called a culture of censorship and intimidation that was intolerant of others, as well as a compliant media and a consumer culture that values the pursuit of money above everything.

"We have begun to reduce the complexities of modern life into the facile judgments of good and evil, and now find ourselves brought up short when we see that we have, too, some times and moments, become what we despise," Burns said.

And the seniors spoofed Bush's "Gentleman's C performance" and 2001 speech.

In seniors' spoof of the class of 2004's history Sunday, they recalled the quote as: "To all the C-students out there, I'd like to say, you too can be president _ if your dad was president."
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DivinBreuvage Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-24-04 11:45 PM
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1. 150 years from now KB will find a charming 4th-generation Neocon raconteur
to delight the public with enchanting anecdotes about the noble dream that was Neoconservatism and the marble heroes who deftly waged the "Good Fight" in her defence.

OK, that's really unfair. I did find a bit more pro-Confederacy mythology in "The Civil War" than I might have liked, but it was so slight that I didn't really start to pick up on it until I had seen it several times. Apparently he had plenty of comments from white Southerners making the opposite complaint too, so I guess that proves he did a pretty good job at sticking to the middle ground. His documentary was genuinely a phenomenal accomplishment, not just in collecting and structuring that gigantic mass of information but in pulling you so far into it that you almost felt you could part a curtain to be with those long-dead people.

Has anyone read "Ken Burns's The Civil War: Historians Respond" by Robert Brent Toplin? It is a collection of essays from historians evaluating the documentary. A couple of them give KB props for his work but most of them, as I recall, take issue with the fact that their personal area of expertise was slighted. The most interesting thing to me was the chapter by C. Vann Woodward in which he discusses the behavior of the academics who were invited to a rough draft screening: they all started bitching about what a failure it was and when begged to offer their insight as to how to make it better preferred to just keep bitching. So "The Civil War" went on to reach and move more Americans than any historian has ever done.

More good thoughts on the subject from James McPherson in the "What's the Matter With History" essay in "Drawn With The Sword: Reflections on the American Civil War."

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coda Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 02:56 AM
Response to Reply #1
4. Thanks ff
I'll have to look up that book. Burns did a fantastic job on the CW series. In my top ten all time.

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nadinbrzezinski Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-24-04 11:53 PM
Response to Original message
2. I hate to say it
but I agree with Burns, I have said it before, we are either in 1858, or in 1800... there are days I hope for 1932.

But 1800 is called by historians the Second American Revolution and we all know what happened in 1860

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marmel59 Donating Member (7 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 12:29 AM
Response to Reply #2
3. actually 1917.........
interesting metaphor from KB, who never metaphor he didn't like.
I've been saying for the past 10 years that we're still trying to clean up the mess from the collapse of the Victorian English empire at the end of WWI and just continuing to make the same mistakes.

I say we hand responsibility for the Middle East, Africa, the Indian sub-continent and the Balkans over to Bonnie Prince Charlie and see if he can redeem his family and the concept of monarchy/oligarchy/plutocracy.
Right about the time he realizes he's failing miserably the petro-economy will collapse completely and there will be nothing left to fight wars over.............
I'll be out back weeding my tomato plants and tuning up the Dobro.
just sliding by...................
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donhakman Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 05:23 AM
Response to Reply #3
5. Great speech and replies
I only wish a democratic candidate for President would speak as honestly and straight forward.
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